We’ve all been there. The words your Pilates teacher is saying seem simple enough. Around you everyone else is easily doing the movement. But your body? No. Your body refuses.
It can feel frustrating. At our Pilates studio in Bristol I see people getting annoyed at what they call their ‘lack of core muscles’ or ‘no coordination’. I’ve been there, trust me. I’m not a very competitive person but still find myself shooting looks at fellow clients and cursing their straight leg while mine stays irrefutably bent.
There are two phrases that I repeat to myself when those tantrum tempers rise to the surface. Both I learnt from teachers I admire. Both are simple, and both have helped me stay focused and calm during my Pilates practice.
Do your own workout
This came from Holly at Pi Studio in London. She noticed my covetous looks at the lady working out next to me, who’s legs seemed to glide effortlessly passed her ear, and snapped her fingers in front of my eyes. “Focus, you can only move your own body”.
This is an amazing mantra. It tells you to forget everyone else, your Pilates work out is only about you.
If there is someone next to you who’s making it look easy, remember that you have no idea how long they have been training. They could have been there for years beavering away at this exercise and struggled just as much at the beginning as you did.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. If you struggle with one exercise there will be others that play to your strengths. Be proud of what you can do and work at what you can’t.
Other people are irrelevant. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. But if no one else was there would you body be any different? Nope. Would you have to try less hard? Nope again. The effort you have to put into that exercise depends totally on you.
So next time your in class ignore everyone else (apart from your teacher!). Or even better, be inspired by the people who do things well and be inspiring with the exercises you shine at.
Trust the process
Karen Ingram, Peak Pilates master instructor at Barefoot Studio is responsible for giving me this gem. Everyone starts Pilates because they want to improve something. In our fast-paced lives we’re used to getting what we want quickly. Well a healthy body is something that can’t be rushed. It takes time, practice, dedication and commitment. It can also feel like trying to achieve the impossible. At some point all of us have thought “maybe this is just how I’m built. I can’t change it. It’s no use”. I’ve been there too.
But there’s a reason people have been teaching Pilates in the same way since the 1940s. It works. There is so much genius behind the method that even the most seasoned teachers are still having ‘ah ha’ moments.
The order of the exercises isn’t random, it was cleverly thought out so you’re strengthening and stretching muscles in sequence. Your whole body is getting worked and no part is neglected. You might want to just focus on your shoulders, if that’s where you feel your weakness is, but imagine a whole hour of just focusing on something you’re not confident about! A bit soul-destroying. Instead the process tells us to move the whole body, the strong and the weak, because moving in this way will continue to maintain where you’re strong and help heal where you need it.
The most important element is moving, and I mean really moving. If you know the order it’s all too tempting just to go through the motions. Everyone is concentrating during the 100 but I notice that chatter or yawns start to creep in during ‘easier’ exercises. In order to trust the process you have to be deep into the process. Are your abs really pulling your leg forward in side lying front and back? Are you trying to lengthen the spine in swan? Are you thinking about your dinner in shoulder bridge?
If you want your body to strengthen, lengthen and heal, Pilates will do that. So next time you come to a class be ready move your body and trust the process.
Does it sound like Pilates is what you need in your life? Book in for a consultation and let’s get you moving.